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This Wall Reacts to You

Friday, July 15, 2016

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Washington, D.C.’s Terrell Place already serves as a symbol of the civil rights movement, but a new reactive media feature in the office building is making it a must-see for those interested in the future of art and design as well.

Terrell Place display
Images and video: ©

The Terrell Place installation, created by Manhattan-based ESI Design, features full “media walls” that display moving artwork via LED screen.

The new installation, created by Manhattan-based ESI Design, features full “media walls” that display moving artwork via LED screen; as a person passes by, the artwork changes in reaction to the motion. A flower-covered branch waves in the breeze, for example, or a moving colored-line design displays more intense action. ESI was hired by building owner Beacon Capital for the installation.

Historic Building

Terrell Place, on 7th Street Northwest, lies a few blocks from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Verizon Center, and is just north of the National Mall. It’s an office building now, but at one point housed the Hecht’s department store, where activist Mary Church Terrell, at age 87, led a picket against cafeteria segregation in 1951.

Terrell Place before and after

The first floor media wall displays include the “Color Play” design, which resembles fireworks going off. (Picture at left is the lobby space before the renovation.)

The building was renamed Terrell Place in her honor in 2004; around the same time, it got a permanent exhibit honoring Terrell. The building’s Mary Church Terrell Memorial got a redesign from ESI at the same time the media walls went in; it now has more images and an interactive element.

How It Works

The first floor media wall displays include Washington’s famous cherry trees, famous architecture and landscapes of D.C., and the “Color Play” design, which resembles fireworks going off. The displays react to nearby motion via a set of infrared cameras monitoring the 1,700-square-foot lobby area. They play at staggered intervals to assure workers and visitors coming and going get a variety of displays throughout the day and week.

Terrell Place, Washington DC, by ESI Design from ESI Design on Vimeo.

There’s also a sound element to the display; ambient sound and music that was noted as dear to Mary Church Terrell plays in the background in the lobby.

“The different media create distinct rhythms to give Terrell Place a unique identity and strong street presence,” says Michael Schneider, senior creative technology designer at ESI Design. “Each of the media scenes reflects the time of day and the movement of people through the lobby, acting almost as a large abstract data-visualization of the ebb and flow of Terrell Place.”


Tagged categories: Artists; Asia Pacific; Color + Design; Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Interior design; Latin America; North America; Office Buildings

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